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Episode 17

by Rose Bridges,

It's crunch-time again at Musani! The obnoxious manager for Third Aerial Girls Squad's author delivers a new "funny story": he needs a PV of the anime in time for an upcoming Manga Festival. Musani's animators are already behind on work due to the character-design issue, and now they have to get ahead again! The production team is in full stress mode trying to make it happen. Essentially, this episode was about plot, and yet I'm going to talk about character. Shirobako is good at merging the two, combining plot movement into character revelations, and this episode was no exception.

It's amazing to think that Aoi used to be the least-developed main character on Shirobako. This episode makes it clear how much Aoi has changed in her new role supervising the production team. Remember Aoi's struggles to round up animators in episode 11, and how she worried over approaching industry veterans to fill in for Musani? That Aoi is gone now, reminding the other power-players that it "doesn't hurt to ask!" when they fret over recruiting a big name. Her authority is felt all over the studio, from Satou and Andou following her around and imitating her, to the artists telling them "go ask Miyamori-san to explain" when the girls don't get something. She's grown so much, settling into her job and herself. Aoi truly feels like a protagonist now.

This project gives her friends opportunities to change through their new roles too. Ema finds herself the mentor to an extremely insecure new animator. This girl frets over using the right toothbrush brand in a scene where Aria brushes her teeth. It's exaggerated for humor, but it recalls a time when Ema struggled with seamless animation earlier in the series. I'm not sure how much it helps her new protégé (the girl does good work despite being a shrinking violet), but it definitely boosts Ema's own confidence and abilities. The senior animator even points this out to her, expounding on the value of teaching. The Third Aerial Girls Squad arc has been full of role-reversals. After Iguchi's troubles last week, it's nice to see positive examples of change.

That's the key, though: I'd like to see more of it. I noticed this episode that Shirobako has a little too much telling, too much spelling-out exactly what we're supposed to learn from each encounter. We don't need to hear from Mii that her work at the previous company helps because she's "really good at tires" now. We get that from her supervisor's compliments. We also didn't need Zuka to point out how her job as "Plum Piggie" could advance her career. This should be obvious to the audience. Shirobako's heavy reliance on "telling" is helpful when communicating industry info the audience needs to make sense of the plot. This week gave us more of that with Mimuji and Roro's PV for "We Don't Exist in Real Life, But Work Hard in Your Delusions!" which was cute and funny. When it comes to character moments though, the audience doesn't really need everything spelled out. It's better when we can pick it up on our own.

If Shirobako can learn when to use exposition and when to leave implications on the table, it could become an even better show. It's already a great show. It's funny, informative, heartrending at times, and features a diverse and compelling set of characters. I'd like to see it do even more.

Rating: B+

Shirobako is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Rose is a musicologist who studies film music. She writes about anime and many other topics on Autostraddle.com, her blog and her Twitter.

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